One soldier’s fight against the Japanese in a time of disaster
This author of this book, written during the Second World War, was an officer of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders who served in Malaya. The fall of Malaya, and subsequently the imperial fortress island of Singapore in 1942, is infamous as the greatest capitulation in the history of the British Army. When Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival surrendered to the invading Japanese Army, 138,000 British and Commonwealth troops had been killed, wounded or captured in the campaign. Defeat in Malaya at this point in the war was practically a certainty, but despite holding a position on Percival’s staff, Angus Rose was determined to personally take the fight to the enemy. This book describes the author’s participation in the campaign in detail, but what makes this account unusual is that Rose determined to lead a volunteer raiding unit, delivered by sea, behind enemy lines. Few readers will be aware that at the time the embryonic SAS was operating in the Western desert, similar operations were being planned and executed in the Far East. This is the story of a consummate infantry officer who was determined, if necessary, to die fighting. This new Leonaur edition of ‘Who Dies Fighting’ has been made possible by the cooperation of the authors family, and it includes photographs and illustrations which were not present in the original edition.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
C.S.M. Bing cared less than nothing about bombing. He was a fatalist and quite fearless. In Northern Malaya, he had distinguished himself, together with Bal Hendry, his company commander, when the two of them accounted for some sixteen odd Japs single-handed. Bal had a detachment watching a railway line and, during the course of the day, he went there together with Bing and his runner. Whilst inspecting the post, they saw a party of Japs come down the railway line and disappear into the station. Bal decided on an immediate encircling attack in which the detachment should act as the holding force and he, Bing and the runner the striking force. On arrival at the station Bal attacked the ticket office and ordered Bing to protect his flank and rear.
The plan worked admirably. Bal had a fight on his own in the ticket office, killing four or five Japs as a preliminary to capturing the remaining two. Bing, stalking round the outside of the building, was presented with the sight of ten Japanese backsides working their way forward to help in the ticket office fight. He tore off a whole Tommy gun slide at this target, killing the lot, and then rushed in to help Bal who was engaged in a vicious hand-to-hand struggle on the floor. Bing, seizing his Tommy gun by the red hot barrel, dispatched one Jap with ease and Bal cracked the other one with his tin hat sufficiently gently to enable them to remove a live prisoner. With this prize, they executed an orderly withdrawal and returned safely to battalion headquarters. A few days later Bal was severely wounded and subsequently evacuated to India and Bing was also one of the few who survived this disastrous campaign. Fortune favours the brave—yes, sometimes. On the other hand, neither of them was decorated for this gallant and skilfully conducted fight.
After the second high level-attack we were treated to a series of dive-bombing ordeals and then a message came from the C.O. to say that we were to leave the transport and move forward to a specified assembly position. A rendezvous was given for the ‘Orders Group’ and we were instructed not to halt and take cover for dive-bombing or artillery fire. At ‘Orders’ we were told that the position was serious. The Australians had been driven well back and there was a chance that the Japs might succeed in breaking through down the Tengah Road. We were, therefore, to occupy a position astride this road. Localities were pointed out on the map and on the ground and the companies went forward in occupation of these dispositions. It was disappointing that we were not put in to attack, as most of us knew this part of the island very well and a successful counter-attack would have been good for morale. Without having been forward to see the situation at the time, it is impossible to say if this was the correct tactical solution or not. We were under command of Gordon Bennett and these were his orders.
Dive-bombing and cannon attacks were pretty vicious. To give an idea of the intensity, we took four dive-bomber attacks, by formations of nine aircraft in each assault, at one particular spot inside ten minutes. I had an uncomfortable drive back down the road, to give orders to our troop-carrying and ‘A’ echelon transport, and I had my vehicle riddled with cannon shells and the radiator punctured, in consequence of which she seized up. This didn’t matter much, as the vehicle in question had already been abandoned in the middle of the road and didn’t belong to us.