Bruce Richmond ANDREWS

Poppy

ANDREWS, Bruce Richmond

Service Number: QX14494
Enlisted: 11 July 1940, Kelvin Grove, Queensland
Last Rank: Gunner
Last Unit: 2nd/10th Field Regiment
Born: Rockhampton, Queensland, 28 September 1918
Home Town: Kelvin Grove, Brisbane, Queensland
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Not yet discovered
Died: Died of Illness (POW of Japan), Burma, 24 September 1943, aged 24 years
Cemetery: Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery
Grave Location: A16. H. 1., Portion A16; Row H; Grave 1
Memorials: Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour
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World War 2 Service

11 Jul 1940: Enlisted 2nd AIF WW 2, Private, SN QX14494, Kelvin Grove, Queensland
12 Jul 1940: Involvement 2nd AIF WW 2, Private, SN QX14494
16 Feb 1942: Imprisoned Malaya/Singapore
24 Sep 1943: Involvement 2nd AIF WW 2, Gunner, SN QX14494, 2nd/10th Field Regiment, Prisoners of War

Tthe Story of the 8th Division


An abridged copy of a lecture delivered to the Royal United Services Institute by Major John Wyett A.M., the last surviving Staff Officer of General Gordon Bennettâs H.Q. of the 8th Australian Division...

By 1941 Germany controls all Europe as well as Yugoslavia, Greece and Crete. Rommel was at the gates of Cairo. Japan seizes her opportunity, signs a pact with Thailand and establishes bases and air fields. Their Army lands in Thailand and Malaya in early December 1941 at the height of the monsoon season.

Churchill sends Britain's two most powerful and modern battle cruisers to Singapore and they are sunk within 10 days of arrival. Only a few days after hostilities begin Japan has control of both sea and air. Her aircraft, thought to be obsolete and ineffective, prove to be far superior in performance and in much greater strength than those of the R.A.F. AND R.A.A.F.

The American defence chiefs had made an appreciation of the Far East situation 12 months earlier and reported to Roosevelt, “Malaya is indefensible”. This was proved to be true.

The early stages of the campaign in Malay were marked by a series of disasters, and more were to follow. The defence strategy codenamed “Matador” and aimed at attacking the enemy as he attempted to land was never implemented.

There were strict orders from London that Thailand's neutrality must be respected. Troops must remain on the Malayan side of the border and “Matador” could not be implemented without the consent of the Prime Minister. Churchill delegated this authority to Wavell who passed the authority to Air Chief Marshall Brooke Popham, who had been brought out of retirement to act as Commander in Chief of forces in Malaya and Singapore.

As soon as the Japanese invasion fleet was sighted off the coast of Thailand, troops from the 11th Indian Division were placed on full alert awaiting the order to cross the frontier. Brooke Popham could not make up his mind and the troops were left waiting in the drenching rain of the N. E. Monsoons for a day and a half.

The Japs meanwhile were ashore in Thailand opposed only by those valiant efforts of the airforce which were no match for the invaders and were soon overcome.

They seized the two Thai airports – Singgora and Pattani and soon had possession the British airfield at Kota Bahru. By the time operation “MATADOR” was authorised, the Japs had over 26,000 troops ashore. A vital strategic advantage had been lost.

From that point on, all the initiative was in the hands of the enemy. He was ashore in strength, he had quickly gained supremacy in the air, and his ships could move freely, virtually unmolested.

The 8th Division Involvement

Five weeks from the time the Japanese landed unopposed in Thailand, they had gained control of 80% of Malaya, with the defending forces in constant retreat in a campaign similar in many respects to the blitzkrieg conquest of Europe by the German allies. But in this case, using the subtler tactic of encirclement and avoiding wherever possible, the brute force of direct confrontation.

10th January 1942 – At this stage the Japanese Forces were south of Kuala Lumper and approaching a defence line stretching across the southern part of the peninsula from coast to coast.

The central portion of this line was manned by the Australian 27th Brigade of the 8th Division together with the 2nd Loyal British Regiment and the remnants of 9th Indian Division. This rather mixed group was named Westforce and placed under the command of General Bennett. Our 22nd Brigade was in its original position at Mersing where elaborate and effective defence positions had been prepared. They became part of East force together with the 11th Indian Division and were under the command of Brigadier Taylor, Lt. Gen. Heath of the 3rd Indian Corps was in overall command.

14th January 1942 – A strong force of Japanese was trapped in an ambush by 2/30 Battalion at Gemas and received many casualties when the bridge over the Gemencheh River they were crossing was blown up. However a small advance party had been allowed trough the trap, and following their usual procedure, immediately found and cut the telephone lines to the ginners and H.Q. As a result the artillery barrage which had been planned did not occur until much later and when much of the target had deployed in the usual encircling movement.

Meanwhile, following troops had managed to cross the river and cut off the ambush party. Japanese engineers quickly repaired the bridge with timber from a near by sawmill, which had been left intact. Although the Japs had received a severe setback it was not long befre their light tanks and infantry were exerting considerable pressure on the 2/26th Battalion near Segamat, as the forward unit of the main defence group.

As divisional H.Q. was situated too far back for effective control, I had been sent forward to set up an advance operational headquarters in Seramat, where the main stand against the Jap advance was to take place. I chose a small unobtrusive house in a side street and the small but efficient staff I had brought with me soon had things working smoothly.

A day or so later General Bennett paid us a visit. He was highly critical of the position I had chosen as being out of keeping with the dignity and importance of his status as Commander of Westforce. He pointed to a very large and ornate, pretentious looking brick house in a prominent and very exposed position at a crossing on the main road and instructed me to move there at once. He then departed and I decided to stay put in our little house among the trees.

As it turned out, the Japs made the decision for us, because next day low flying planes made a couple of passes and then bombed us. Fortunately, I had managed to get all the staff into the slit trenches we had dug in the lawn so nobody was hurt.

;The planes flying were low and we watched fascinated as the doors to the bomb bays opened and one by one the bombs came out horizontally, slowly righting themselves and dropping in a graceful curve. ;It was possible to judge fairly well just where they would fall, and one seemed to be coming directly into our trench. Fortunately it was aimed at the house but still too close for comfort. It went straight through the roof, through the floor and exploded when it hit the ground underneath. Our pleasant little wooden house was no more, but, surprisingly it did little damage to our equipment and we were soon operational again in a couple of little outhouses. But not for long.;

While all this action was going on at the Segamat position a strong Japanese force of cruisers, destroyers and two transports, all with heavy air cover was spotted off Endau by an Australian Hudson Aircraft and the information relayed to Singapore. Once again fortune favoured the Japanese. They had avoided the more accessible beaches at Mersing because they knew every detail of the well prepared defences of the 22nd Brigade.

Never the less, the Australians were in a good position to deal with the enemy advance towards the important road junction at Jemaluang when orders were issued by Malaya Command to withdraw. Confusing and disappointing though such orders were, the Brigade group managed to inflict heavy casualties on the enemy and a delay of three days to his advance. An ambush arranged on the road to Jemaluang was completely successful.

The defenders were able to withdraw safely and the fire of the 2/10th Field Regiment was so devastatingly accurate that the Japanese wanted to know how we did it. (this was later, after hostilities ended) They were given some very strange details. All this came about because of an imminent threat to the left flank of Westforce. The crack troops of the Japanese Guards Division had landed at Muar on the west coast and had quickly overcome the untrained, newly enlisted men of the 45th Indian Division. Their commander and most of his British officers had been killed and there was little resistance left.

With superiority and command of both sea and air, Yamashita, the Japanese General, was able to mount a giant pincer movement aimed at bottling up and destroying the whole of the army in Malaya.

I was ordered to arrange a conference in Segamat of the commanders of the 9th Indian Division, General Bennett, General Barstow and General Key. General Bennett was late and we were kept standing around for over half an hour before he arrived.

When he did so, he burst into the room looking all hot and flushed and without further ado immediately began shouting a tirade about low morale and a cowardly withdrawal complex. After about ten minutes of totally inappropriate and offensive remarks he turned abruptly, left the room and went.

I simply did not know where to look in the utter confusion and embarrassment of the vacuum he had left. It was Colonel Coates who broke the grim silence by saying, “Well I wonder what that was all about”. Then seeing my dejected face he came and put his arm about my shoulders saying. “Come on Wyett, we will soon work something out.”

General Bennett must have been acutely embarrassed at having to order a withdrawal so soon after his successful ambush at Segamat because only a few days previously General Barstow had suggested that such a plan be prepared in the event that it might be needed in an emergency. This had been summarily dismissed and General Barstow rudely rebuked as being defeatist. I think the incident marked the beginning of a mental decline in General Bennett, which was to lead to a decision by General Sturdee, Chief of Staff in Australia, to relieve Bennett of his command of the 8th Division. A decision never implement due to the turn of events.

Meanwhile things on the west coast were not going well. Having practically wiped out the 45th Indian Brigade, the Japanese Guards division was not firmly established with very little between them and Singapore. Two Australian battalions, the 2/9th from the east coast and the 2/29th from Segamat had been hastily dispatched to the Maur area to try to stem the tide and were now heavily engaged. The commander of the 2/29th had been killed. Reinforcements sent by Malaya Command did not arrive due to mismanagement and the 2nd Royals lost their equipment and were delayed because of demolitions prematurely exploded in front of them by over zealous fortress engineers.

At this stage Lt. Col. Anderson, C.O. of 2/19th Battalion gathered most of the remnants and took over command of the group. They fought gamely knowing that the fate of the whole of Westforce depended on their efforts. They suffered appalling casualties but succeeded in blocking the advance of a whole division of crack Japanese troops. Finally after food, water and ammunition had run out, “Andy” ordered his group to disband in the night rather than surrender, and make their way out as best they could. It was a dire case of “Save yourself”.

The withdrawal from Segamat and the east coast had been completed. Westforce had been saved from the threatened pincer grip. When General Percival heard the news he said, “We breathe again.” There was now no alternative but to retreat to the Island of Singapore. This was completed without incident on the night of 31st January 1942.

Reference: Origin of The Story of 8th Division; The 8th Division Involvement; are extracted copies from "8th Division Story"; The Official 2/26 Battalion Website,
In affiliation with the 2/26 Battalion Family & Friends Association Inc.

SOURCE: http://www.2-26bn.org/8thDivStory.html

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Biography contributed by Daniel Bishop

Son of George Richmond ANDREWS & Jessie Susan (nee-RICHMOND) ANDREWS.

Also has a memorial together with family, Audrey Jessie, Bernice Irene, & Edward Victor ANDREWS - Grave Location: MON-GP5-41A-61, Monumental - General Portion 5; Section 41A; Grave 61; at Lutwyche Cemetery