British battle Japs on beach near Singapore (12-8-41)

The Pittsburgh Press (December 8, 1941)

British battle Japs on beach near Singapore

60 killed, 133 wounded in city; Thai quit, London says
By David S. Waite, United Press staff writer

Singapore, Dec. 8 –
Maj. Gen. A. E. Percival, British Commander-in-Chief for Malaya, reported today that the Japanese are believed to be in possession of southern Thailand and are fighting to retain their foothold on the beaches of northeast Malaya.

Gen. Percival reported to the legislative council that “confused fighting” is going on at Kota Bharu, where Japanese troops still hold their positions between the beaches and the Kota Bharu airdrome which is held by British forces.

He reported that the Japanese aimed their attack at five main points in Malaya, Selatar, Tengah, Kelamtan Sungei and Patani – all on the eastern Malayan coast and north of the great Singapore naval station.

London heard Radio Berlin report that Japanese Imperial Headquarters at Tokyo had asserted that landing operations in the Malayan Peninsula were progressing favorably and that an attack on Hong Kong had been started.

It was asserted officially that an estimated 60 persons were killed and 133 wounded when Japanese planes bombed Singapore without hitting the naval base.

Thailand has ceased resistance to Japan, according to a British broadcast.

The Japanese effected a landing on the Malay coast, a few miles from the Thai border, in the dark hours of early morning. British Empire forces, under the support of airplanes, were fighting them in hand-to-hand action on the beaches.

Land near Singapore

At the same time, Japanese troops landed above Singapore, on the east Thailand coast, 140 miles to the north, where they were opposed by Thai troops.

Gov. Sir Shenton Thomas, denouncing the attacks as unprovoked, said the Japanese force which landed troops on the Malay coast consisted of a cruiser, four destroyers, an armed merchantmen and a transport.

It was asserted officially that all the Japanese craft had retired under fire and the Japanese troops, left battling for positions, were under deadly machine gun fire.

CBS quoted the British radio as saying that Japanese transports had landed troops at Patani, 60 miles north of the Malay border, as well as at Singora.

It was asserted also that a Japanese landing attempt in British North Borneo, between Malaya and the Philippines, had been beaten off.

The British radio was quoted as saying that a Japanese cruiser, four destroyers, an armed merchantman and one other vessel were sighted off Cocos Island in the Bay of Bengal, within striking distance of Ranong, Thailand and the west coast of Malaya.

Come in two waves

It was said officially that only a few bombs were dropped on Singapore Island and the Kelantan Airdrome and that there were no casualties at the airdrome.

Two waves of raiders came over, at an estimated height of 17,000 feet. There were six bombing planes in the first wave and five in the second.

Air raid sirens sounded again about 10 a.m. (Singapore time) and the alarm period continued for nearly an hour. The alarm had sounded for the first raid at 4:15 a.m. and anti-aircraft guns went into action.

It was announced that Japanese had been rounded up for internment throughout Malaya and the Dutch East Indies.

The Japanese made their landing on the beach near Padang Sabek, within 15 miles of the Thai border.

They were repulsed by the defense fringe along the beach, using rifles, pistols and machine guns, and by the planes which soon were up.

Stronger forces follow

But stronger forces followed, made good their landing and started filtering inland toward the important town of Kota Bharu.

The first Singapore war communiqué said:

They are being engaged by land forces and aircraft. Our aircraft are also attacking ships and enemy troops which landed.

The scene of fighting was near the mouth of the Kelantan River which empties on the east aside of the Malay Peninsula near the Thai border.

It was said officially that in addition to the Japanese ships engaged in landing operations here 10 warships were seen off Bangkok.

Report gas bombs used

When the first Japanese ship concentrations were sighted off the Malay coast airplanes promptly went to the attack and a war communiqué asserted that one, an American-made Hudson, scored a direct hit on the leading ship. The ship burst into flames. A direct hit was made also on another ship in the convoy. A second Hudson scored a hit on a troop-filled barge in the river.

The wail of the air raid sirens was the first intimation to people of Singapore that the long-awaited war had come to them.

There were unofficial and unconfirmed report that mustard gas bombs had been dropped on Singapore.

Malaya was prepared

Malaya was prepared for the Japanese attack because the extensive air reconnaissance in the adjacent seas had confirmed reports of extraordinary shipping activity, including the presence of warships.

American-made Catalina flying boats had taken part in this reconnaissance which resulted in the contact of the warships more than 300 miles off the coast.

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