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Operation Krohcol
Part of the Battle of Malaya, World War II
Date 8–11 December 1941
Location Kroh-Pattani Road, Thailand
Result Strategic Allied failure
Belligerents
Thailand Royal Thai Police
Japan 5th Division
India Krohcol
Commanders
Thailand Prayoon Rattanakit
Japan Takuro Matsui
United Kingdom Henry Moorhead

Operation Krohcol, or the Battle for The Ledge, was a British operation in December 1941 to move into southern Thailand following the Japanese invasion of Malaya and of Thailand during World War II. It was authorised by Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival as a "mini Matador" after Operation Matador, a pre-emptive strike into Thailand which had been opposed by the British government was not carried out. Due to delays in authorisation by Percival and in the forwarding of his order, the need to reorganise the troops for Krohcol instead of Matador, and the Thai resistance the Krohcol column did not reach the Ledge in time.

Contents

Forces

Krohcol was the most important of three small columns sent into Thailand to harass and delay the Japanese advance from their beach heads at Songkhla and Pattani.[1] It was named Krohcol as it was operating on the KrohPattani road. The column consisted of men from the 3/16th Punjab Regiment and some engineers under the command of Lt. Col. Henry Moorhead. Attached to Moorhead's command were some Australian veterans of the First World War from the 2nd/3rd Australian Motor Transport Company under Major Kiernan with their Mormon Harringtons.[2] Krohcol was under its designated strength and delayed due to a second battalion the 5/14th Punjab Regiment and a light artillery battery failing to arrive on time.[1] The column left without them. The column's objective was a six mile stretch of road cut through a steep hillside and bounded on the other side by sheer drop into a river and known as The Ledge. Blowing the hillside on to the road would cause the Japanese invasion force considerable delay.[1]

Opposing this Commonwealth invasion force was the resistance of the local Thai gendarmerie from Betong, who caused further delays to the column.

Battle of Betong

Krohcol crossed the frontier some fourteen hours after the landings at Kota Bharu, on 8 December, and met stubborn opposition from Thai policemen and civilian volunteers led by Major Prayoon Rattanakit, police commissioner of the town of Betong.

At the Thai-Malay border the first Sepoy to cross the customs barrier was shot dead by armed Thai Constabulary [3]

This force harassed the British column from the safety of the surrounding forests and felled rubber trees across the narrow road, slowing down the progress of the Bren gun carriers. In the meantime much of the Thai population of Betong evacuated the town, leaving behind Chinese and Indian merchants.[4] Thai resistance delayed the Punjabis until the following afternoon and they did not reach the town of Betong, only five miles inside the frontier, until the evening of 9 December.[5]

When Krohcol entered Betong, a Thai constable commanding a police unit allowed them to pass through unopposed, against Prayoon's orders. He then approached Lt Col Moorhead and courteously apologised for the 'mistake'. However, it is not known why Moorhead did not immediately push on to the Ledge, but the delay proved fatal. On the morning of 10 December, Punjabi troops set off from Betong and headed for the Ledge. But at about 2 p.m., while advancing through a ravine above the Pattani River, they came under fire again. Krohcol had made contact with the Japanese 5th Division who had come in from Pattani. Fighting went on into the night, continuing the next day.[1]

With casualties mounting, Moorhead made up his mind to fall back to Betong, with permission from Divisional Headquarters.[1] Nearly outflanked by the Japanese, Krohcol began their retreat at dawn of 11 December. Moorhead jumped aboard the last of the four remaining Bren gun carriers, but not before rescuing a wounded Punjabi soldier (Moorhead spotted him lying on the shell-blasted road, lifting a weary hand of farewell at him. He leaped out of the carrier, carried him on his shoulder, and returned to the carrier).[1]

That night the Thai police were reinforced by Japanese tanks coming down from the landings at Pattani, who proceeded to pursue and engage Krohcol. Krohcol was a mere five miles from The Ledge, their objective.[2] A prisoner released from a local jail, an ex-bandit who knew the area well, was borrowed by the Japanese. Betong was re-occupied, and the force under Prayoon began taking punitive actions against the local Chinese, who were believed to have greeted Krohcol flying the Union Jack as well as the Kuomintang flag, whereas the fate of the Thai constable is unknown. A local Indian accused of volunteering his services (as a guide) to Krohcol was tracked down, cornered, and shot dead by a group of vengeful Thais.

Moorhead asked for permission to retreat back to Kroh, but half and hour before they were to leave the Japanese attacked their positions in strength.[1] During the night of 11/12 December the Japanese had moved around the flanks of Krohcol and attacked C Companies' positions. Only ten men from C Company escaped.[1] Moorhead was forced to make a fighting retreat back to Kroh throughout 12 December, where they passed through Lt.Col. Cyril Stokes's delayed 5/14th Punjab, which was digging in. The 3/16th Punjabs were reduced to around 350 officers and men.[1]

The two other columns

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Laycol

One of the other columns, consisting of 200 truck-borne troops from the 1/8th Punjabis, and a section of the 273rd Anti-Tank Battery under the command of Major Andrews,[1] had crossed the Thai border at the same time as Krohcol. The column, named Laycol after Brigadier William Lay, commander of the 6th Indian Infantry Brigade, crossed the frontier at 1730 hours on December 8, 1941 and moved towards Songkhla to harass and delay the enemy. Laycol reached Ban Sadao, ten miles north of the frontier at dusk, where it halted and took up a position north of the village.[2]

Laycol made contact with a Japanese mechanised column from Colonel Saeki's reconnaissance unit of the Japanese 5th Division with a company of tanks from the 1st Tank Regiment. The force was led by the tanks and moved in close formation with full headlights blazing. The two leading tanks were knocked out by the anti-tank guns, but the Japanese infantry quickly debussed and started an enveloping movement around the flanks of the Punjabis. Laycol withdrew on December 11 through the outpost position at Kampong Imam, destroying two bridges and partially destroying a third on the way back.[1]

Armoured train

The last column was an armoured train, with 30 men from the 2/16th Punjab Regiment and some engineers, advancing into Thailand from Padang Besar in Perlis. This armoured train reached Khlong Ngae, in southern Thailand, and successfully destroyed a 200 foot bridge before withdrawing back to Padang Besar.[1]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Warren, Alan (2002). Britain's Greatest Defeat Singapore, 1942. Great Britain: MPG Books. ISBN 1-8528-5597-5. http://books.google.co.zw/books?id=zosKzAoocu8C&dq=Lt.Col.Tester,+2/9th+Jats&source=gbs_navlinks_s.  
  2. ^ a b c Smith, Colin (2006). Singapore Burning. Penguin. ISBN 0-141-01036-3.  
  3. ^ Alan Warren pp 79
  4. ^ "Operation KROHCOL". http://www.angkor.com/2bangkok/2bangkok/forum/archive/index.php/t-869.html.  
  5. ^ Alan Warren pp 79

References

  • Colin Smith (2006). Singapore Burning. England: Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-101036-6.  
  • Frank Owen (2001). The Fall of Singapore. England: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-139133-2.  
  • Alan Warren (2002). Britain's Greatest Defeat Singapore, 1942. MPG Books. ISBN 1-8528-5597-5.  

External links


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