Sunday, January 08, 2012

The British Battalion Plaque Is BACK at St Michael's

War historian Mr Chye (centre) with the Heritage team from SMI
After decades of safe-keeping by war historian Mr Chye Kooi Loong, the bronze plaque bearing the historic British Battalion was finally returned to the place it was born - St Michael's Institution, Ipoh. The Michaelian Heritage team made a journey to Kampar in the morning of Friday, January 6, 2012 to ceremoniously receive the plaque from Mr Chye for the alma mater.
It was a very significant occasion because the formation of the British Battalion at SMI to fight against the invading Japanese was witnessed personally by Brother Ultan Paul. In fact, during the arrival of the British soldiers at St Michael's on either 18/19 December 1941, Brother Paul was there to welcome the soldiers. 
"I was here at that time and I remember it well", he said. "The Surreys came here first - 18th December and the Leicestershire arrived later in the evening. They were put into the classrooms on the ground and first floors and the school hall. They stayed for three days before leaving the school in the early morning of 23rd December 1941", recalled Brother Paul.
Source: Chye Kooi Loong, The British Battalion in the Malayan Campaign 1941-1942 (revised edition), Published by Dept. of Museums and Antiquities, Kuala Lumpur. 

The British Battalion was an ad hoc formation created on 20 December 1941 during the Battle of Malaya.It was amalgamated from two regular British Army battalions, 2nd Bn, East Surreys Regiment under Lieut. Col. G E Swinton MC and 1st Bn, The Leicestershire Regiment under Lieut. Col. Charles Esmond Morrison, OBE.
Both battalions suffered heavy casualties in North West Malaya during the early stages of the Japanese invasion so it was decided to amalgamate the two battalions.The British Battalion was commanded by Lieut. Col. Morrison; Lieut. Col. Swinton was badly wounded during the Battle of Jitra. The battalion fought with great courage, taking many casualties and earning much respect from other units. They were involved in fierce fighting during the Battle of Kampar (30 December 1941–2 January 1942), before joining in the fighting retreat back to Singapore. The Battalion was also involved in the short but fierce battle for Singapore. They surrendered to the Japanese along with other units of the British Army under General Arthur Percival in February 1942. Many of the British battalion died in Japanese P.O.W. camps. Of the estimated 500 soldiers at the amalgamation, barely 130 survived the war.
Sourced from Wikipedia

Some comments posted last year
It will be 70th Anniversary of the formation of British Battalion this December. The question now is are we going to celebrate this historic formation at SMI? It means a lot to us, Michaelians, as this historical moment took place on our home field. We have spoken to historian Chye Kooi Loong and he is willing to help us to organise the celebration. He is even willing to loan us photographs and other apparels related to this historical event. So Michaelians, need your feedback fast. Harneak Singh, 5A3 1980.
Good start.History should be recorded if not it will be forgotten. We should also make an effort to contact the Japanese embassy and get the details of the Japanese Battalions who were occupying St Michael's. Maybe some old photographs of Japanese soldiers in the school - Lawrence Brindes


Note from the Editor: The SMI Centennial Celebration committee during the previous meeting had given the nod for the plaque to be fixed to a wall at St Michael's Institution. We are currently working on the special day and the guests to be invited. To start with, the British High Commissioner, officials from the British Council and perhaps the spouses or children of members of the British Battalion be invited to witness the historic moment when the plaque is mounted at St Michael's Ipoh
I believe there are still regiments, local and abroad, who hold these members and their outstanding sacrifices vividly in their mind.
"Happy Centennial"
"Cherishing Our Past, Embracing The Future"
Signing off,
Peter Khiew

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