The Allies Engage The Japanese With Artillery And Small Arms Fire At Kuantan, Malaya (Dec 1941)

KuantanKuantan, Malaya

December 10th 1941 –

Japanese troops sink Britain’s two main warships – the Prince of Wales and Repulse off the coast of Kuantan

“Located in Malaysia’s mid east coast, Kuantan was the closest base from which aircraft might fly in support of the British ships. Like Koata Bahru, it was an exposed outpost, built as part of the RAF’s plans to assume primary responsibility for the defence of Malaya. In such a remote location, it was fiendishly difficult to prepare as an operational base.”

Source: The Long Raod To Changi, Ewer Peter, 2013, pg 109

“The Kuantan area was very isolated. As already stated, it was over 100 miles, through desolate jungle country, from Jerantut on the east coast railway, and it was 160 miles from the Headquarters of the 9 Indian Division at Raub. These are big distances when there are no aircraft available for inter communication. Its military importance lay solely in the R.A.F. aerodrome, 9 miles inland from the town and on the other side of the Kuantan River.

Since the 9th December 1941 when the aerodrome had been evacuated, Japanese aircraft had been daily active over the Kuantan area, reconnoitring, bombing and machine-gunning, but little damage had been done. It appears that the enemy had intended to make landings on the coast of Trengganu but had been pre vented from doing so by his losses, especially of landing craft, in the Kelantan operations.

Between the 20th and 24th December our long distance patrols were in contact with Japanese troops moving southward in M.T. on the coast of Trengganu. On the 27th the enemy were engaged by our artillery near the Trengganu /Pahang frontier.

It was now apparent that the threat against the Kuantan area was developing from the North, though it might still be accompanied by a sea-borne landing. It will be recollected that we had by that time had heavy losses of material on the west coast and that our reserves had been depleted. We could not afford to have further heavy losses. The situation at Kuantan was particularly hazardous owing to most of the material being east of the River Kuantan which was crossed only by a single ferry. In consequence of this and of the situation which was developing on the left flank instructions were issued to the Commander Kuantan Force that he should concentrate the bulk of his force, material and transport, west of the River Kuantan, holding the area east of the river with light mobile forces only.

This readjustment of the position was going on when, on the morning of the 30th December the Japanese advanced via the Jabor Valley in greater strength than they had previously shown. They were engaged by our artillery and small arms fire and confused fighting continued throughout the day. The ferry, which had been split into two working halves, was bombed during the day and one half only remained in action.

By the morning of the 31st December the enemy were attacking the ferry, but a bridgehead was maintained during the day. During the night 31st December/1st January the rearguard was withdrawn across the river and the ferry destroyed. At that time, however, the River Kuantan was fordable in its upper reaches, a most unusual occurrence at that time of year. This seriously weakened the defenses.”


Quoting: A. E. Percival, Lieutenant-General, General Officer Commanding, Malaya. 1942.

“When, before the war, a Government official, now Lord Llewellyn, queried Major – General Dobbie about the complete absence of fortifications on the north coast of Singapore, though the east and the west and the south bristled with armaments, the General replied simply: ‘The north needs no fortification. No one could get through the jungle that leads to it’
Unfortunately, the Japanese were never informed of this fact!”
(Sir John Dill, May 6th, 1941)
Source: The Naked Island by Russell Braddon; 1955 edition Pan Books Ltd, Pg 284