70 Minutes Before Pearl Harbor: Kota Bharu 1941

Discussions on WW2 in the Pacific and the Sino-Japanese War.
User avatar
Klemen L.
Member
Posts: 299
Joined: 01 Mar 2004 01:21
Location: Unterkrain

Re: 70 Minutes Before Pearl Harbor: Kota Bharu 1941

Postby Klemen L. » 04 Jan 2010 19:21

Hello Zaf1!

Thanks for giving me support to write on this subject. I think I'd divide this into two section, one on the subject of British and local defence, and another on the invasion itself. This are from my own researches.

Sounds OK to me. :wink: I also wouldn't mind a few words about the actual history of the town of Kota Bharu itself. I have seen its name spelled as Kota Bharu but also as Kota Bahru. I would also appreciate a few words about the buildup of these pillboxes and other defense measures taken by the British in 1939-1941 at Kota Bharu. Who built them and why did they build the Kota Bharu airfield so close to the coast?

All in all sounds a like a great project and I can't wait to have it in my hands. In my notebook one of the most anticipated books in the coming years. :wink:

After the fall of France in 1940 the Japanese quickly occupied the helpless French colonies in Indo-China in order to stop the weapon supplies to China from the Indo-China. The British army built the extensive defences in Kelantan mainly to defend the 3 RAF forward airfields, at Kota Bharu. Machang and Gong Kedak facing the Gulf of Siam around 1940 where they expected the Japanese to come from newly occupied French Indo-China a few hundred miles away.

When exactly were these pillboxes built at Kota Bharu (in summer 1940?) and who was responsible for their construction? The troops of the 8th Indian Brigade? Or the Malaya Command engineers?

The beach were defended by troops in several pillboxes and in between these pillboxes some reserve machine gun post located some distance behind the pillboxes. Most of these pillboxes on the beach are submerged in the sea due to severe sea erosion

Was the beach also defended by barbed wire as indicated on the Japanese painting?

lp,

Klemen

User avatar
Peter H
Member
Posts: 28605
Joined: 30 Dec 2002 13:18
Location: Australia

Re: 70 Minutes Before Pearl Harbor: Kota Bharu 1941

Postby Peter H » 04 Jan 2010 23:38

Barbed wire mentioned here.

The Hill 203 of the Ocean
viewtopic.php?f=65&t=120591

For some time, the barbed wire entanglements continued to prove insurmountable and, as they bunched up behind them, so the Japanese losses mounted. Those who tried to get away from the more obvious fixed lines of the Bren guns began to set off the land mines that had been sewn in such profusion. Nearly all the battalion and company commanders were hit though at least two were trying to continue to lead while being carried about on stretchers. Major-General Takumi managed to leave the stricken Awagisan Maru and get ashore with the second wave some time around 3am, arriving with a company whose commander had been killed on deck when one of the Hudsons straffed the ship. Within minutes of getting to the beach the officer who had succeeded him was also killed. Takumi then personally took command of this and another leaderless company and ran and crawled with them towards the wire.

Most contemporary western armies of the day used explosive charges to get through thick barbed wire entanglements. The British, for instance, had developed the Bangalore Torpedo: an alloy pipe about one-and-a-half inches in circumference packed with gun cotton and usually six foot in length though sections could be joined together to clear a way through both entanglements and, it was hoped, mines by detonating those either side of it.

For all their intensive preparation, Takumi’s men do not appear to have had anything like this at their disposal. Instead, using bayonets, helmets and spoons taken from their knapsacks, his soldiers began to burrow their way like turtles into the soft sand under the wire until they were deep enough to crawl beneath it. According to one Japanese account this was done by lines of men lying abreast, “digging the ground frantically and gradually crowding forward”. Behind them the next line of crawling men would deepen the trench the vanguard had excavated beneath wire, gently pulling aside casualties...


User avatar
Zaf1
Member
Posts: 752
Joined: 16 Aug 2009 15:01
Location: Kota Bharu, Malaysia

Re: 70 Minutes Before Pearl Harbor: Kota Bharu 1941

Postby Zaf1 » 05 Jan 2010 17:56

Hi Klemen,

I don't know who built the pillboxes but it might be the engineers because there were quite many of these built. The design of the pillbox at Kota Bharu built around mid 1940 was different from the one built around the Naval Base in Singapore and Penang built in pre-war days around 1938.

These pillboxes were built so far north was because there was a need by the RAF to get their planes on operation as far as possible from the mainland. There was an inter-service battle between the navy and air force for responsibility of defending Malaya.

For years they depended on the naval fleet and the big coastal guns to defend mainly Singapore Naval Base . However the army discovered that it was possible for the Japanese to land north on the east coast of the peninsular and attack Singapore from the landward side. The army didn't have enough troops to have large garrison at other places in Malaya. The air force had a cheaper alternative and more effective method which was to depend on aircraft to attack any landing at Malaya. They would attack and sink any ships heading towards Malaya and the army was to mop up any enemy troops that manage to reach the shore.

During the pre-war days the operational range of aircraft was very short which make it necessary to have an airfield as far north as possible. The air force built these airfields but without consulting the army, thus the army had a heavy task of defending the vulnerable airfield so close to the beach. They didn't get to choose which location with terrain that is more suitable to defend. In the end when war broke, the air force was nearly destroyed by Japanese air attacks, and the army, never intended, trained or equipped to fight a large land battle, found themselves fighting without air or naval support in the jungles, and had to retreat.

I think others had much more knowledge on this.

Peter,

The beach were heavily wired. There 3 lines of barbed wires. The first line was the coiled barbed wires, in the middle was the roof-shaped double apron barbed wires, and behind it another coil of barbed wires. On the wires there were trip wire mines and in the sands large anti-tank or anti-personnel mines. I was told the British built an electric generator nearby to electrify the barbed wires, but didn't yet complete it. One Japanese soldiers said he thought the wires were electrified like the Russian did at Hill 203.

Fatboy Coxy
Member
Posts: 589
Joined: 26 Jul 2009 16:14
Location: Essex, UK

Re: 70 Minutes Before Pearl Harbor: Kota Bharu 1941

Postby Fatboy Coxy » 31 Mar 2010 22:48

I found this about the Kota Bharu beach defences

"In terms of manpower, Brigadier Key’s command may have been thin on the ground, but over the last six months the beach defences had become quite formidable. Land mines started a few yards up the beach from the high water mark and after them came considerable barbed wire entanglements.

Behind the mines and entanglements awaited the 3/17 Dogras. They occupied concrete pillboxes about 100 yards apart in between which were L shaped firing dug-outs and behind them, to give defence in depth, some well dug in nests for Bren light machine guns. All the positions were well stocked with ammunition, food, water and medical kits. Each pillbox was garrisoned by about twelve men who had at least two and often three Bren’s as well as rifles, 15,000 rounds of the .303 ammunition which fitted both weapons, and 100 grenades.

There was one weak link, one gap, and Brigadier Key had done his best to shore it up. At its mouth the Kelantan River broke up into a delta area of distributaries, lagoons, creeks and low islands that became totally submerged in full monsoon spate. One of these distributaries, the Pengkalan Chapa, had a wide mouth entered between two spits of sand, Badang and Sabak beaches, that curved towards each other rather like the claws of a crab. The river mouth was almost opposite the airfield and Key considered it the most likely landing spot. He had wanted to put a boom across it, which would prevent small craft from entering and worming their way behind his lines, but his engineers had been told the steel cable necessary to construct a boom was not available.

Key had responded by making the spits as formidable as possible. As well as pillboxes capable of laying down a crossfire across the river mouth, an estimated 300 miles of barbed wire had been strung. First there was what the sappers called a ‘Double Apron’, in section view an isosceles triangle that presented an attacking force with a 6 foot high slope of barbed wire as well as an identical slope facing the other way. Next came a Triple Dannert barrier, concertina rols of barbed wire about ten times nastier than a hawthorn hedge. Just behind this was another ‘Double Apron’. And only a few days before, the last of 4,000 mines had been lightly covered with the beach’s fine white sand. The weakest link had been turned into a killing ground."

Singapore Burning – Colin Smith, page 131

Steve

User avatar
Zaf1
Member
Posts: 752
Joined: 16 Aug 2009 15:01
Location: Kota Bharu, Malaysia

Re: 70 Minutes Before Pearl Harbor: Kota Bharu 1941

Postby Zaf1 » 05 Apr 2010 17:35

Thanks Steve,

This is the photo of the Royal Australian Air Force barracks at Kota Bharu airfield near the Pengkalan Chepa River.

Regards

Zaf
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

Fatboy Coxy
Member
Posts: 589
Joined: 26 Jul 2009 16:14
Location: Essex, UK

Re: 70 Minutes Before Pearl Harbor: Kota Bharu 1941

Postby Fatboy Coxy » 05 Apr 2010 20:39

This would be the sergeants mess according to the AWM site. The boats on the right are called Praus and were used by the Australians. I wonder what the heap of earth is for?

Steve

Panzermahn
Member
Posts: 3490
Joined: 13 Jul 2002 03:51
Location: Malaysia

Re: 70 Minutes Before Pearl Harbor: Kota Bharu 1941

Postby Panzermahn » 06 Apr 2010 12:20

I think you meant 'Perahu' which is in Malay word for boat

User avatar
Zaf1
Member
Posts: 752
Joined: 16 Aug 2009 15:01
Location: Kota Bharu, Malaysia

Re: 70 Minutes Before Pearl Harbor: Kota Bharu 1941

Postby Zaf1 » 06 Apr 2010 23:46

Hi Panzermahn

I think what Steve meant was the heap of earth on the ground near the barracks. I don't know it might be materials for building defence, it could be the earth dug up when making a trench line.

Regards

Zaf

Panzermahn
Member
Posts: 3490
Joined: 13 Jul 2002 03:51
Location: Malaysia

Re: 70 Minutes Before Pearl Harbor: Kota Bharu 1941

Postby Panzermahn » 07 Apr 2010 12:54

Hello Zaf

Gembira dapat bertemu dengan rakan senegara di forum ini!

Oh, actually Steve mentioned the word "praus" so I thought he might meant "perahu" for the boats. The place I am staying, there is a British made pill-box, one of the only 5 (if I am not mistaken) in the whole of Penang island.

Panzermahn

User avatar
Zaf1
Member
Posts: 752
Joined: 16 Aug 2009 15:01
Location: Kota Bharu, Malaysia

Re: 70 Minutes Before Pearl Harbor: Kota Bharu 1941

Postby Zaf1 » 07 Apr 2010 16:12

Hello Panzermahn

Saya pun genbira dapat bertemu dengan rakan senegara di forum ni! Where in Penang do you stay? I think Penang Island got more than 5 British pillboxes. Some are located in the Batu Maung museum. A few are located in the north and a few located in the south near the fisherman's village around Teluk Kumbar.

Penang Island was also a fortress like Singapore, with big coastal guns, pillboxes and airfields guarding the northern approaches of the Malacca Straits.

Regards

Zaf
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

Panzermahn
Member
Posts: 3490
Joined: 13 Jul 2002 03:51
Location: Malaysia

Re: 70 Minutes Before Pearl Harbor: Kota Bharu 1941

Postby Panzermahn » 07 Apr 2010 16:45

Hello Zaf

Terima kasih atas gambar-gambar menarik! I will send you a PM

Yes, there is a museum in Teluk Kumbar but I have not been there yet (thanks to a full time job I have). However, I heard before that Pulau Jerejak was the stopover for the Monsoon Flotilla.

Fatboy Coxy
Member
Posts: 589
Joined: 26 Jul 2009 16:14
Location: Essex, UK

Re: 70 Minutes Before Pearl Harbor: Kota Bharu 1941

Postby Fatboy Coxy » 07 Apr 2010 20:36

Panzermahn wrote:I think you meant 'Perahu' which is in Malay word for boat


Hi Panzermahn

You may be right about this, I'm completely ignorant on Malay words, I only quoted from the AWM site, see below
http://cas.awm.gov.au/item/078733

Panzermahn wrote:However, I heard before that Pulau Jerejak was the stopover for the Monsoon Flotilla.


I tried to find out a bit more about the use of submarines from Penang, see
viewtopic.php?f=114&t=158283

and the monsoon Flotilla here
viewtopic.php?f=110&t=24405&start=0

Steve

User avatar
Zaf1
Member
Posts: 752
Joined: 16 Aug 2009 15:01
Location: Kota Bharu, Malaysia

Re: 70 Minutes Before Pearl Harbor: Kota Bharu 1941

Postby Zaf1 » 04 Sep 2010 16:48

I took this picture this morning near the Kota Bharu airfield, and compare with the photo of this place in 1941
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

User avatar
Zaf1
Member
Posts: 752
Joined: 16 Aug 2009 15:01
Location: Kota Bharu, Malaysia

Re: 70 Minutes Before Pearl Harbor: Kota Bharu 1941

Postby Zaf1 » 04 Sep 2010 16:52

Kota Bharu airfield 1941
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

Fatboy Coxy
Member
Posts: 589
Joined: 26 Jul 2009 16:14
Location: Essex, UK

Re: 70 Minutes Before Pearl Harbor: Kota Bharu 1941

Postby Fatboy Coxy » 04 Sep 2010 21:18

Zaf, well done!

Thats an excellent photo, you've got the site spot on! there's the river bending, and barracks have just been replaced with a new building on the same site, maybe used the same foundations.

Steve


Return to “WW2 in the Pacific & Asia”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: CommonCrawl [Bot]