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Additional info in another network54 forum

June 6 2014 at 7:52 PM
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Nelson  (no login)


Response to Lanchester 6x4 armoured car and Vickers LMG(?) in Malaya

 
Managed to find more a bit more info on armored car use in Malaya/Singapore in the Allied WWII AFV discussion group, specifically in network54.com/Forum/47208, taking place in April 2001. I don't know if that forum survives these 13 years since. Anyway, the discussion, "Singapore/Malayan armoured cars 1941/1942", includes the following thread between the two individuals named. Other than my italicizing periodical and ship names, and correcting a handful of typos, what follows is virtually word-for-word, including Mr. Taylor's mixture of British and American spellings. I have also added bold-faced numbers to flag my own editorial remarks following their discussion (given the length of the thread quoted here, I'll add my comments and illustrative photos in a following post, and my apologies for that necessity).

Tomek Basarabowicz, April 11, 2001:

"According to Raymond Surlemont's article in Armored Car No. 10, twenty-two Lanchester armoured cars were sent to Malaya, of which thirteen were Mk.I's, one Mk.IA, five Mk.II's and three Mk.IIA's.
Four Lanchesters were taken over by 2nd A&S Highlanders (together with three Marmon-Herrington A/C's).1
The rest went to both armoured car companies (Singapore and Malay), as well as Straits Settlements detachments."

Mike Taylor, April 16, 2001:

"The following extracts and comments are from two books. The first is the 2 Argyll's regimental history, HISTORY OF THE ARGYLL AND SUTHERLAND HIGHLANDERS 2nd BATTALION (The Thin Red Line): Malayan Campaign 1941-1942, Brigadier I. MacA. Stewart, DSO, OBE, MC, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1947.2
The second is MOON OVER MALAYA: A Tale of Argylls and Marines by Jonathan Moffatt & Audrey Holmes McCormick, Coombe Publishing, 1999 (no ISBN).
The 2nd Argylls' basic organization at the beginning of the campaign was as follows.
'The Battalion was organized and equipped on generally the same scale as for other theatres [i.e., BHQ, HQ Coy. & 4 Rifle Coys], with the notable exception that it had an armoured car platoon [No. 4 Platoon, HQ Coy.] of seven cars, of which four were old and temperamental Lanchesters armed with two Vickers and a .5 anti-tank machine gun, though for the latter there was scarcely any ammunition. In their young days they had been in Palestine. The other three were South African built Marmons, armed with a single Vickers and an anti-tank rifle.1 Used as mobile forts, the armoured cars became the framework on which the Battalion tactics were built up. Without them, there is no question that the 93rd would not have had its repeated successes in meeting the Jap encircling attacks and quick follow-ups. There were four 3-inch mortars and a few newly arrived 2-inch ones on establishment.' (Regimental history, page 5)
The Lanchester cars, of which the Battalion initiallty had five, were at one point taken from the Battalion to provide vehicles for 3rd Indian Cavalry Regiment, recently converted to a recce regiment and assigned (at least initially) to III Corps, but who had arrived minus all its vehicles. Four of them were returned before the Argylls saw action as their new owners could not make them work!3
The Battalion fought its way down Malaya and reached Singapore on 13 January, by which time they were reduced to just one armoured car. (This car met 'a gallant end in the last dark days engaging a Jap medium tank in the dark on the road to Bukit Timah' {Regimental history, page 12}). However, 'within ten days [the Battalion] had acquired two 3-inch mortars and 700 rounds of ammunition, four carriers, six armoured cars, and all the light machine guns and tommy guns that it could use for its 250 men.' (Regimental history, page 93). The vehicles were mostly those which had been abandoned by other units, but in one case outright theft was attempted when the Argylls' armoured car platoon sergeant arrested the crew of another unit's car and locked them in the guardhouse on the basis that they should have been fighting the Japs! The other unit's CO appears to have been quite understanding about it.
The 250 Argylls were made up from the survivors of the fighting in the Malay peninsula plus just about every member of the regiment who had been drafted to other units or the staff, and those in hospital who could walk or stagger to join the Battalion. They formed a HQ and two weak rifle companies. They were subsequently reinforced by 200 Royal Marines, survivors from Prince of Wales and Repulse, who made up two more weak rifle companies and manned one of the mortars and an armoured car. (Regimental history, page 94). The RM contingent thereafter styled themselves 'The Plymouth Argylls'.
MOON OVER MALAYA contains a couple of useful photos of Lanchesters. On the front cover there is one showing licence plate W[WD arrow]468 and a large letter B or figure 8 on a light coloured circle on the right mudguard. In the body of the book there is a picture of a line of about 5 Lanchesters, the front one licence number W[WD arrow]465. Other markings are obscured. In addition, the Argylls' history states that the cars 'bore the names of the castles of Scotland on their turrets, and Stirling Castle, the home of the Regiment, need feel no shame at the achievements of its namesake.' (Regimental history, page 12). MOON provides additional information, saying that the Marmons were not named but used the last two numbers of their registration plates, as in Car 24 or Car 68. The Lanchester car names are identified as Stirling Castle, Dumbarton Castle, Glamis Castle, Inverness Castle and Blair Castle. (MOON, page 24). Blair Castle seems to have been the car never returned to the Battalion and so presumably fought with 3 Indian Cavalry Regt.3,4
There is a useful passage on page 23 of MOON OVER MALAYA. 'The armoured car situation [of 2 Argylls] compared favourably with the two Indian battalions [4/19 Hyderabad and 5/2 Punjab] in the Brigade [12th], who had only three armoured cars and eight carriers each with no armoured car platoons as such. The [Argylls'] Lanchesters were among twenty two delivered to Malaya before the war. The Marmons, of which some 175 were delivered to Malaya, were brought down from Kuala Lumpur by Lt. Montgomery-Campbell and four drivers early in 1941.' There were no wireless sets in any of the cars. All cars carried a .45 Thompson smg.
MOON also states that the original establishment of the Argylls' carrier platoon was 14 carriers, each with a Bren and a Thompson smg. This was rather more than might reasonably be expected of an infantry battalion of the period, which usually fielded no more than ten carriers.

3 Indian Cavalry 'took delivery of sixteen Marmon Herrington armoured cars at Singapore in December 1941.3 These vehicles were new, not run in, and were without machine gun fittings, spares and tools. During the journey to III Corps area, the inexperienced drivers and mechanics either ditched or rendered unserviceable thirteen of them.' (UK Official History, THE WAR AGAINST JAPAN, Volume 1: The Loss of Singapore, Major General Woodburn Kirby, HMSO, 1957, page 217 fn 1). It seems they [the 3rd Cavalry troopers?] may have been mounted mainly in 15cwt. trucks.

18 Recce. Regiment, converted from 5 Loyals, arrived off Singapore on 5 February 1942 when their ship, the liner Empress of India, was sunk by Japanese aircraft. They lost all their equipment and had to be re-equipped from local resources, but it is not clear what that was. There is a reference in their regimental history to the Battalion leading an attack on Bukit Timah village on 10 February and that the attack was led by 'ten wheeled carriers'. However, it is not entirely clear that these carriers belonged to the Battalion.5 (THE LOYAL REGIMENT (North Lancashire) 1919-1953 by Captain C. G. T. Dean, Private by the Regiment, 1955, pages 151-2 & 154)

2 Loyals were also in Singapore, part of 1st Malay Infantry Brigade, and on page 131 of the Regimental history, reference is made to an unspecified number of armoured cars being on establishment on 5 September 1939. An issue of nine armoured cars was made on 7 December 1941 (page 134), but it is not clear whether these were in addition to the existing cars. There seems to be no mention of type of car. The Battalion fought its way down the Malay peninsula and reached Singapore on 21 January 1942. On 1 February it formed a detachment including four armoured cars for internal security duties (pages 150-151). It is not clear whether these were surviving cars or a new issue.

MOON refers on a couple of occasions to a FMSVF Armoured Car 'Regiment' (e.g., pp. 104 & 105), but not to its organization or its equipment. Similar references are made to the SSV, but again no details of organization or equipment. No references found to a Singapore Volunteer Armoured Car Coy. However, given the numbers of Lanchester versus Marmons in theatre, it seems likely that the majority were the latter."

Tomek Basarabowicz, April 17, 2001

"Another reference, i.e., 'A STUDY IN ARMORED EXPLOITATION, The Battle of the Slim River, Malaya, 7 January 1942,' by M.N. Stanton says that all Highlanders' armoured cars (Lanchesters and Marmon-Herringtons) were lost to the Japanese tank company which fought in support of 42nd Japanese Infantry Regiment.
Supposedly no single armoured car managed to cross the Slim River, which seems contradictory to the regimental history you quoted.
However, regimental history is [the] more reliable source in this case, I believe."

End of the April 2001 thread.

Nelson

 
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  • editorial comments on the preceding post - Nelson on Jun 6, 2014, 8:50 PM
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  • Lanchester production numbers - Jim Broshot on Jun 7, 2014, 1:17 AM
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