In trying to learn more about that South African reconnaissance car (SARC), Mark III, overturned on the Muar-Bakri Road among the several knocked-out Japanese Type 95 Ha-Go light tanks, I consulted S. Woodburn Kirby’s The War Against Japan
, Vol. I, The Loss of Singapore
(1957), Lionel Wigmore’s The Japanese Thrust
(1957), Vol. IV of Australia in the War of 1939–1945
, Series 1, Army, and a few Australian War Memorial (AWM) websites.
Encompassing the big picture, Kirby is of course more concerned with the movements and combat of large formations, and he includes few details on the antitank action northwest of Bakri crossroads. Page 307: “During the afternoon [of January 17, 1942] the 2/29th [Infantry Battalion] and a troop of 2/4th Anti-Tank Regiment arrived and, in preparation for the contemplated attack [to retake Muar], Duncan [Brigadier Herbert Cecil Duncan, commanding 45th Indian Brigade] ordered it to leave a company [D Company] to guard the road junction at Bakri and take over the position one mile west of Bakri....” Page 308: “At dawn on the 18th the Japanese launched an attack with light tanks unsupported by infantry along the Muar-Bakri Road. The 2/29th Battalion drove it back, destroying eight tanks.”
Wigmore provides substantially more detail in his Chapter 12, “The Battle of Muar”. Page 225: “Unaware of the extent of the enemy forces in the Muar area, [Maj. Gen. Gordon Bennett] directed that [2/29th Battalion] should be used to counter-attack towards Muar, and gave it a troop of 2/4th Australian Anti-Tank Regiment and one of armoured cars from the Loyals for what he considered good measure.”
In my posting of February 25, 2015, I supposed that the source of the armored car troop was the 2nd Loyals, so that confirmation is nicely satisfying. I found these two photographs of the 2nd Loyals training in October 1941, equipped with Bren (universal) carriers, rather than SARC Mk III armored cars, likely which they got only after the war had begun.
The carrier shown has one Bren LMG mounted, on a stand behind the driver.
Interestingly, the three carriers in this view mount their armament differently: the first vehicle shows a bow-mounted Bren gun; the second a bow-mounted Boys .55cal antitank rifle, with a Bren behind the driver; and the third with a Bren atop an antiaircraft stand. Likely these differences were intended for training purposes, so experience could be gained by having different guns mounted in different ways.
Wigmore continues, page 226: “....Robertson decided to rest his men during the early part of the night [January 17, 1942] about a mile and a half forward of Bakri, and then to attempt to capture Simpang Jeram at daylight on the 18th. He quickly gained evidence of the presence of the enemy, for an armoured car sent forward to reconnoitre the road returned with the information that it had been fired upon at a Japanese road-block about two miles forward of the battalion’s position. A patrol clash followed this incident, and by 7 p.m. the forward troops were under heavy mortar fire. A small force of Japanese then arrived, and in the darkness hand grenades and bayonets were used in disposing of them.”
Page 227: “With the rear of the 2/29th Battalion’s main position threatened by penetration from the coast via Parit Jawa, five Japanese light tanks approached the position frontally at 6:45 a.m., unaware that an anti-tank gun awaited them at each end of a cutting through which the Muar road ran. Solid armour-piercing shells were first used against the tanks, but it was found that these went straight through them and out the far side.” Thereupon the 2-pounder AT guns commanded by L/Sgt Clarence Thornton and Sgt. Charles Parsons shifted to high explosive rounds and the battle raged on until eight IJA light tanks were alight, and several members of their crews disposed of by bullets and hand grenades. There is no mention of the rations truck that by error had passed through the Australian company positions the night before or of the SARC Mark III armored car being engaged and overturned at some point during the action.
Two or three AWM sites provide no additional information on the overturned SARC Mk III, but differ from Kirby and Wigmore in specifying nine
Japanese tanks hit and set afire. Perhaps one was recovered by the Japanese during or following the action.
Can you find any additional details on the action?