Friday, June 22, 2012

British High Commissioner Visits St Michael's

His Excellency Mr Simon Featherstone proudly unveiling the British Battalion plaque.
It was a day to remember at St Michael's when British High Commissioner His Excellency Mr Simon Featherstone and his wife Madam Gail arrived to unveil a plaque that is close to the hearts of so many veteran servicemen and locals, including the late Brother Ultan Paul.
For war historian Mr Chye Kooi Loong, his dream to witness the plaque being accorded a rightful place at St Michael's was fulfilled that day. His strong spirit and determination ruled the day as he and his wife had to travel all the way from Kampar despite their physical limitations.
At St Michael's, 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.
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.
The arrival of His Excellency and his wife, welcomed by the principal, Mr Adrian Tsen and guests.
Guests at the school foyer.
Wushu Club members showcasing their drumming skills.
Michaelian Military Band members were also present at the ceremony.
Realising its significance of the occasion, UK-based company Narborough Plantations plc generously sponsored the whole event. We thank the management of the company, the Old Michaelians Association, the Wushu Club members, the Michaelian Military Band members and all individuals who have made the occasion so special, yes, in conjunction with our Centennial Celebrations.    

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