Saturday, 4 August 2012

Light Battery Federated Malay States Volunteer Force, Selangor

George Lawrence Hess'e, LBFMSVF, MPAJA, Force 136

Light Battery Federated Malay States Volunteer Force, Selangor

The Light Battery of the FMSVF has 4 guns, 2 in Perak (Left) Section and 2 in Selangor (Right) Section. Commander was Maj. Ronald Wilshaw, A Chemist from the Dept of Agriculture. Senior Officers were all Europeans, some NCOs were Eurasians. Most Eurasians came from C Company, Selangor FMSVF after reorganization and disbandment of Eurasian Company. Sgt Dick Marks brought some men to LBFMSVF, Sgt Ossie Dorall took his men to Armoured Cars, and Sgt Anthony “Gooche” Howe took his to Signals.

The battery was mixed, with 50-60 Europeans and equal number of Eurasians, some Chinese in the Perak Section and one Malay – but work wasn’t. The Europeans aimed and fired the 3.7inch Howitzers; the Eurasians and the Malay worked entirely on transport, wood chopping, latrine digging, loading and unloading of munitions from the lorries.

George Hess, in 1941 and a Eurasian, joined the LBFMSVF after being hassled by his foreman, Stevie McCoy, in the Federated Engineers where he worked as an apprentice. When he joined, he was given a uniform with a wide leather belt that made him look like a “scarecrow”. He later traded it in with a local tailor and had a new one made for $30, paid by his mother.

Being a competent mechanic, he was assigned in the LBFMSVF as a dispatch rider on a Norton. He was mobilized a few days after 1 Dec 1941, when a state of emergency was declared and the Volunteers mobilized. The volunteers spent very little time together owing to the importance of rubber and tin to the war effort and was neither as cohesive nor well trained – little use was made of these well-educated men in the Malaya Campaign who almost all spoke Malay and was intimately familiar with the country.

The LBFMSVF was sent to the north and gave up their howitzers after 3 weeks of mobilization to an Indian Mountain Battery whom has lost their guns in action in Jitra. They were replaced by 4 x18 pounders, one of which was a display piece which Cecil Hay described as an ancient relic. Nonetheless, the European gunners began to improve the sights of the guns and replace the gun carriages with salvaged axles and parts as the volunteers, mostly tin miners, were engineers by training.

The poorly equipped volunteers obtained and salvage lorries, cars, bikes, weapons and equipment from abandoned aerodromes which were evacuated hastily by the RAF. Lance Bombardier Harry Oppenheim (Perak Section LBFMSVF) noted the saying “He runs like an RAF grounder, when anyone bolts”.

The LBFMSVF was stationed in Ipoh, and was in Kampar by Christmas where CSM Ian Patterson joined Spencer Chapman to venture behind enemy lines to gather intelligence. After Christmas, the battery moved to Kuala Lumpur and pitched up at the race course and continued south west to the coast to help regular artillery units repel coast landing by the Japanese.
Cecil Hays records “2 Jan afternoon, Right Section (Selangor) stood to and took up positions on Kuala Selangor Hill. At 6.30pm, together with 73rd RA, fired at Japanese attempted landings.” The 2ndst Selangor FMSVF was deployed inland at the Batu Tigah cross roads to prevent the infiltration from the flanks that will cut of the allied forward units. Despite volunteers’ advise, the Japanese were not opposed when they landed at Sabak Bernam.

By 27 to 28 Jan, the battery was withdrawn further south across to Singapore. They camped at Paya Lebar. Towards the end of the Malayan Campaign, their last position was at Monk’s Hill School, near the government house.

Extracted from “Playing for Malaya – a Eurasian Family in the Pacific War” Rebecca Kenneison

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