Sir John Valentine Carden Survives. Part 2.


Monthly Donor
A place for the LVT(A) maybe?

No, all the LVT’s were basically designed to operate in essentially charm water, and both the Mekong and the rivers of Sarawak have a high flow rate. Which would mean that the LVT, would struggle to maintain way heading up river against the flow, and any form of steering going down river with the flow.

17 January 1942. River Kerian, Malaya.
17 January 1942. River Kerian, Malaya.

The British Empire forces holding positions on the south of the river was made up of elements of 10th/28th Brigade. After their efforts at Gurun, the two Brigades had been withdrawn to Ipoh for a rest. Casualties had been heavy, it had been necessary to amalgamate the two Brigades as 6th/15th Brigade had been previously. 10th/28th Brigade’s main force was alongside 12th Indian Brigade in the area around Kuala Kangsar, which was much more suitable for creating a sustainable defensive position.

The Battalions had detached Companies (B & C) of 1st/2nd Gurkha Rifles at the road and railway bridges nearer the coast, and B Company 2nd Bn HLI at Selama. Their roles were simply to blow the bridges in the face of the enemy and then withdraw at their best possible speed to their fall-back positions. After destroying the river bridges, it had been arranged for the Perak Public Works Department to flood the trunk road between Nibong Tebal and Bagan Serai. Two Companies of the Baluch/Garhwal Regiment had been working with Royal Engineers and Bombay Sappers and Miners to destroy as much of the infrastructure that may have been useful to the enemy between the river Kerian and Taiping.

It wasn’t entirely clear to the British commanders just why exactly there had been a hiatus in the Japanese offensive. Reports from the 1st Independent Company working behind enemy lines had noted that more men and supplies were being moved forward. This tallied with the arrival of more ships into Bangkok, probably with new drafts of troops to replace losses or even new formations. The likelihood was that the Japanese would have needed to resupply their artillery, and there had been some evidence of less intensive air movements, which perhaps was due to the need for more aviation fuel and bombs.

The reality for the men on the river Kerian was that whatever had been slowing the Japanese advance was now resolved. Reports of Japanese movement, especially of tanks, were increasing. A last wave of refugees had been allowed to cross the bridges, but B Company of 1st/2nd Gurkha Rifles were horrified to find that a group of what they believed to be Chinese in fact were an advance party of Japanese, driving Malay civilians ahead of them at gunpoint. The fighting around the detonator for the demolition of the road bridge was fierce, the kukris of the Gurkhas were edged with blood when one of the sergeants, grievously wounded, threw himself onto a hand grenade, allowing the Royal Engineer officer time to press the plunger and set off the demolition charges. Some of the Japanese had been trying to pull wires and explosives off the bridge, so the demolition was less effective than it should have been. The bridge was only partially destroyed, so that soldiers on foot could cross, and the Japanese engineers only had to patch it up to allow tanks and other vehicles to cross.

The surviving senior Lieutenant of B Company ordered the men to go immediately to the Motor Transport to withdraw as planned. One Platoon volunteered to stay behind as a rear-guard and to protect the engineers from the Public Works to be able to flood the road. In this they were only partially successful, but they took a toll on the Japanese troops trying to stop them.

Similar attempts at both the railway bridge and at Selama were less successful, but the HLI Company found a roadblock at their rear when they were pulling out. The infiltration technique was still one of the Japanese basic tactics. The men of B Company 2nd Bn HLI were mainly pre-war regulars from around the Glasgow area, who’d fought in East Africa and at the Ledge, so there was no panic. They used their Bren Gun Carriers effectively to overwhelm the blocking force and escape, leaving behind some of the Motor Transport in flames and eight dead men, with a few more wounded men who’d been left who were soon dispatched by the Japanese. As the Gurkhas and HLI withdrew, the other demolitions that had been prepared were carried out in a more hurriedly way than originally planned for. This meant that a couple of platoons had to abandon their transport and make their way by foot back to the main positions.

Because the area around the river Kerian tended to be swampy, most of the demolitions were to culverts and small bridges to make the progress of the Japanese, which would be tied mostly to the road as slow as possible. The decision made by Percival, Heath and Murray-Lyon was to make the main line of resistance the Perak River. Although it generally ran north to south parallel to the coast, the main road and rail links crossed the river around the area of Kuala Kangsar.

Ipoh, where the 11th Indian Division had its main depot, was only fifteen miles away, and so for the first time since the invasion of Malaya, Murray-Lyon was able to concentrate his whole Division. Now made up of the two combined Brigades, 6th/15th and 10th/28th as well as the fresh 12th Indian Brigade. 29th Indian Brigade had become III Indian Corps reserves, although it had been weakened at the Muda River battles. Earlier in January the two convoys BM 9A and 9B had arrived from Bombay carrying 3800 Indian troops, with stores, as drafts of replacements for 9th and 11th Indian Divisions. The men allocated to 11th Indian Division had been brought to Ipoh where their training was brought up to scratch. Those furthest advanced in training had been allocated to 6th/15th and 10th/28th Brigades, bringing all six battalions up to full strength. The rest were drafted into 29th Indian Brigade to complete their readiness for battle.

The other advantage for Murray-Lyon was that his whole Royal Artillery strength could also be concentrated. 22nd Mountain Artillery Regiment, 137th and 155th Field Regiments RA had all taken casualties, but were now battle hardened and experienced. III Corps artillery, which had originally been part of 5th Indian Division, had been spilt between 9th and 11th Indian Divisions. The 4th and 144th Field Regiments were available to 11th Division and 28th Field Regiment and 24th Indian Mountain Regiment were available for 9th Division. All these had been in action at various points and Lt General Heath was keen for 11th Division to use the artillery wisely. Brigadier Claude Vallentin had taken over as Commander Royal Artillery for 11th Division and he had presented Heath and Murray-Lyon with a comprehensive fire plan for the defence of the Perak River positions.

In addition to the Field Regiments, 80th and 85th Anti-Tank Regiments RA were available, along with Machine Gun companies from 3rd Bn 17th Dogra Regiment and 1st Battalion Manchester Regiment. Murray-Lyon was particularly pleased to have 3rd Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment of the Hong Kong and Singapore Royal Artillery under his command. The various batteries of this Regiment had been previously defending the airfields of northern Malaya. Heath had managed to persuade Percival that the problems caused by Japanese aircraft, particularly to the artillery, meant that giving 11th Division some integrated anti-aircraft defence was essential.

The Royal Engineers and Bombay Sappers and Miners had been working with local levies of labourers to prepare for a defence in depth. This work had been going on for almost a month, it was always obvious that the Perak River provided one of the best positions to defend the rest of the country. It was by no means perfect, but knowing that the Australian Corps (8 & 9 Divisions AIF, 18th Infantry Division) were undergoing a Corps level exercise as the final preparation for taking over from III Indian Corps, Heath and Murray-Lyon were confident that they could hold here long enough to stymie the Japanese plans and then allow Mackay’s men to take the initiative.
two convoys BM 9A and 9B had arrived from Bombay carrying 3800 Indian troops
This convoy transported the first large troop reinforcement to the island. It left Bombay on December 21 1941 and arrived in Singapore on the 3rd of January without much delay or difficulty. Aboard was the 45th Indian infantry brigade. It departed Bombay on December 21 1941, and arrived in Singapore on January 3 1942.*
This was the follow-up convoy for BM-9A, and the ships of this formation carried the vehicles and stores for the 45th Indian infantry brigade. It departed Bombay on December 22 1941 and arrived in Singapore on January 6 1942.
BM 12
BM-12 carried drafts for the 9th and 11th Divisions ( 3800 men ) and stores for the 18th Division to Singapore. The convoy departed Bombay on January 23 and arrived in Singapore on the 5th of the following month.*

* I've swapped these around. 45th IIB will be going to Persia with the rest of 17th Indian Division, to replace 10th Indian Division which was moved to Burma ITTL.
Last edited:
17 January 1942. River Kerian, Malaya.
And the Japanese had cross the FMS border, (and hopefully stalled by the British). BTW, asking as a 23 year old Malay, is it common for the name of the river to be said that way (ie, like the River Kwai, the River Thames etc), especially in regards to Malayan rivers?(instead of the K(e)rian River)?

And sorry if it is perhaps a bit too far down the timeline, will the Malay Regiment sees any action outside of Malaya?
P/s: Another recurring theme in regards to place names in Malaya is the inconsistencies in spelling (also does not help is the fact that the Malay speakers predominantly uses Jawi as their writing system, which is based on Arabic script, until the Razak Report in 1956), like Hulu/Ulu, Kelang/Klang and in this case, Kerian/Krian.
Last edited:
So, the Japanese have thrown the forces earmarked for Burma into the Malay campaign, but have they shipped in others? Whence, China? Or is there another part of the DEI they are not invading because they need all hands on deck to try and seize Malaya?

It strikes me that those infiltration tactics are probably not that easy to carry out. The officers able to organise such are probably a cut above the average and their 'no retreat no prisoners' attitude means that most only get to do it once in the current campaign. Are they perhaps losing their best infantry officers just like they are losing their best pilots, without passing on their skills?


Thanks. I find it interesting to see these timelines where the British decision makers are less obsessed with what are ideologically insane and/or woefully unforesighted choices, and do less badly than in the original timeline. (Or even considerably better in the case of The Whale has Wings.)
Making good decisions is a lot easier when you aren't facing one outright disaster after another adn have some time to think. OTL when the British were expecting an imminent invasion in 1940 its unsurprising they made poor choices and with the demands of North Africa its hardly surprising the Far East was at the back of the queue for men and materials.
The thing with creating a TL where the Allies do better is that relatively small changes rapidly build up into an avalanche of improvement, whereas Axis wanks are the equivalent of trying to push a boulder up a sheer cliff.
More (relatively) good news from Malaya: even if they're giving ground to Japan, they're making them hurt all the way down the peninsula.
So, the Japanese have thrown the forces earmarked for Burma into the Malay campaign, but have they shipped in others? Whence, China? Or is there another part of the DEI they are not invading because they need all hands on deck to try and seize Malaya?
Great question. There are a few sources I'm using and keep trying to put things together.

So opening OOB:
25 Army: (Signora & Patani)
5 Division - 9 Brigade: 41 Regiment, ; 21 Brigade: 42 Regiment (Patani),
11 Regiment (second echelon to Singora by 1941-12-16), 21 Regiment (deployed January 1942).
18 Division: 23 Brigade: 55 Regiment (Canton), 56 Regiment (Kota Bahru) . 35 Brigade: 124 Regiment. (Borneo invasion). 114 Regiment in reserve for deployment to Malaya.
Guards Division: 3,4,5 Guards Regiment.
15 Army (Burma) Little more than a cadre ln 7 December 1941, with some of its units still in China
33rd Division
55 Division less 143 Regiment at Kra Isthmus
56 Division minus except 56 Brigade, 146 Regiment for Tarakan.
16 Army (For DEI)
2 Division

Whereas OOB:
25 Army/5 Division:
Signora: Kawamura Detachment: 9 Brigade: 11 Regiment + 2 Bns 41 Regiment. 21 Brigade (incomplete).
Patani: 42 Regiment (3 Bns).
Kota Bahru: 18 Division, 23 Brigade, 56 Regiment.
Kra Isthmus: 143 Regiment. (from 55 Division)
Borneo: 18 Division, 35 Brigade: 124 Regiment.
Thailand: Guards Division.

Then from various places here:
The Japanese Plan:
"General Yamashita planned that 5th Division (less 21st Infantry Regiment) would act as the spearhead of the invasion and effect the main landings at Singora and Patani;* 56th Infantry Regiment of 18th Division would make a subsidiary landing at Kota Bharu. These landings were to take place simultaneously during the night of 7th/8th December 1941. The 5th Division was ordered to advance southwards across the Siam—Malaya border; the main body, 9th Infantry Brigade (11th and 4ist Infantry Regiments), using the Singora—Alor Star road, and 42nd Infantry Regiment the Patani—-Kroh road. The division’s objectives were given as, firstly, the line of the Perak River and the capture of; the group of British airfields in Kedah and, secondly, Kuala Lumpur. It was expected that the advance from the Perak River to Kuala Lumpur would begin on approximately the 23rd December. The' 56th Infantry Regiment, making the subsidiary landing, was ordered to ' capture the airfields at Kota Bharu and Gong Kedah.
The main body of Imperial Guards Division was to be lent during the initial stages to 15th Army, which was entrusted with the invasion of Siam and the advance into Burma. The Imperial Guards Division was to move overland from the Indo-Chinese border to occupy Bangkok, the main Siamese airfields and key points on the railway in that country. One battalion was, however, to land at Bangkok on the morning of the 8th December to overawe the Siamese Government, before the arrival of the rest of the division. After the occupation of Siam, the Imperial Guards Division was to revert to 25th Army. The 4th Guards Regiment, with supporting arms, was to move by rail down the Isthmus of Kra and follow up the advance of 5th Division, concentrating in the Taiping—Ipoh area by the 23rd December. The rest of the division, when relieved by 55th Division in Siam, was also to move south and concentrate in central Malaya as soon as possible after the 23rd.
It was planned that 18th Division, less 56th Infantry Regiment (which was to land at Kota Bharu) and less 35th Infantry Brigade Headquarters and 124th Infantry Regiment (which were to invade British Borneo), was to land at Singora and Patani early in January together with the rest of 25th Army. This division was then, as events dictated, either to take part in the attack on Singapore or to prepare for the invasion of northern Sumatra. The 56th Division was to stand by in Japan in readiness to make a landing, if necessary, in the Endau—Mersing area to assist 5th and Imperial Guards Divisions in overcoming resistance in Johore.
To secure southern Siam between Bangkok and Singora, protect the rear of 5th Division, gain control of airfields in that area, and provide for the security of the Siam—Malaya railway, 143rd Regiment of 55th Division of 15th Army was to move with the first flight of 5th Division and land at Nakhorn, Bandon, Jumbhorn, and Prachuab. Elements of this regiment were, as soon as possible after landing, to advance across the border into southern Burma and, by capturing Victoria Point, cut the British air reinforcement route to Malaya."
Other places in same :
'33rd Division left Nanking on 13th December and arrived in Siam on 10th January.'
'56th Division remained in Japan and was moved on 16th February to join 15th Army in Burma.'
'On the 26th December thirty-four transport and supply ships were observed off Singora.'
'On the east coast General Yamashita had planned that two battalions of 55th Infantry Regiment should make a surprise landing at Kuantan about the 28th December in order to capture the airfield. On the 23rd however he postponed the operation. The 55th Infantry Regiment (2 Bns) was then landed at Kota Bharu on the 30th December.'
'21st Infantry Regiment of 5th Division and a large number of administrative units reached Singora on the 8th January.'
'The balance of 18th Division (114th Infantry Regiment, the remaining battalion of 55th Infantry Regiment and the divisional troops) landed at Singora on the 22nd January.' '26 January: 96th Airfield Battalion and its signal unit with stores, equipment, petrol and bombs landed at Endau.'
'18th Division (55th, 56th and 114th Infantry Regiments) was to concentrate on the 31st January.'

According to here:
'Imperial General Headquarters estimated that, in the absence of serious interference by the Allied navies, the first period (invasion of Philippines, Malaya, Borneo) would be completed in accordance with the following timetable: Philippines ~ 50 days; Malaya. ~100; Netherlands East Indies ~150.'
'Second Phase. Operations to secure the south-eastern corner of the perimeter in the Bismarck Archipelago; the occupation of the whole of Malaya and the capture of the Naval Base; the capture of airfields in south Burma; and all preliminary operations necessary to secure air bases for the final attack on Java. These preliminary operations were to take the form of a three-pronged advance, to be made through the South China Sea, the Strait of Makassar and the Molucca Passage in order to capture strategic points in southern Sumatra, Dutch Borneo, Celebes and the islands of Amboina and Timor.'

So, to answer your question, so far all that has appeared in Malaya is meant to be there, except what would have gone into Burma. From the Japanese planning point of view they should have got into position to attack the Naval Base on Singapore by middle of March (100 days from 8 December). So far, therefore, they aren't too far out of schedule. Other than taking Victoria Point in Burma to cut off the air bridge from Rangoon, the Burma advance looks ahead of schedule in OTL because of the speed towards Kuala Lumpur. If their plan to attack from Perak River on 23 December, OTL there were maybe a week behind schedule. ITTL they are just getting to Perak River about 18January, so further behind their initial schedule, but still well within the 100 days. Philippines is same as OTL, though they'll not be reinforced by elements of 18th and 56th Divisions later. I believe the wheels will really come off once Malaya holds, then the DEI plans will find that some of the men who should have been available aren't.
I hope that makes some kind of sense.
One of the advantages that the Japanese had IOTL, will be very much negated, that of their extensive practice in night fighting. Not only were the British nearly as practised as the Japanese in night fighting, but radar gives them a serious advantage.
Yes, one wonders if Cunningham and the Mediterranean Fleet had been at Guadalcanal how different things would be. The poor USN had to learn a lot of lessons very quickly and painfully in Ironbottom Sound.
Maybe TTL we might get to see a night engagement. Probably in the China Sea which might somewhat negate the aggression of RN DD Captains.
18 January 1942. Tobruk. Libya.
18 January 1942. Tobruk. Libya.

Field Marshall Smuts had been touring the victorious battlefields with General Wavell, and the crowning moment of his visit was his visit to the Headquarters of 1st South African Division where he took the salute of the Union Defence Forces gathered in North Africa, standing alongside Major-Generals George Brink (GOC 1st South African Infantry Division) and Isaac de Villiers (GOC 2nd South African Infantry Division)

It hadn’t been easy for the South Africans to field two full Infantry Divisions. When war had been declared there were only 3353 men in the Permanent Force (more than 2000 short of establishment) and the Citizen Force stood at 14,631 more than a thousand men short of establishment.

The 1st SA Infantry Division (SAID) had excelled during the campaign in East Africa. On completion of that first victory for the British Empire, the Division had transferred to Egypt. In June 1941 2nd SAID sailed for Egypt. Both Divisions underwent strenuous training in desert warfare. By the end of 1941, more than 100 000 UDF personnel were deployed in Egypt and Cyrenaica.

Major-General Brink had been critical of General Wavell and Lieutenant-General O’Connor that his men hadn’t been involved in any significant way in the defeat of the Italians and Germans in North Africa. Smuts had deflected that criticism, he knew that the men of 2nd Division especially were desperately short of training and were only coming to their full establishment of Motor Transport and most other equipment. Now, having had those extra few months of training, Wavell and O’Connor were confident that both SAIDs were as good as any other Infantry Division in the Middle East.

It could be thought of as unfortunate that the two Divisions had missed the operations which led to the capture of Tripoli and the end of the Italian Empire in Africa. Wavell was aware that there was a long way to go before the war was won, and he had been losing many of his formations to Auchinleck’s command in Burma and Malaya. The 6th and 9th Australian Divisions had gone, 9th Highland Division was going.

On the other hand, Wavell could count on the two South African Divisions, the 4th Indian and 2nd New Zealand Divisions. The British 6th, 50th Infantry Divisions, along with the 2nd and 7th Armoured Divisions gave him a very powerful force. Behind this force Wavell had a growing and improving Greek force, keen to take the war to their enemy. The Free French were hoping that their brothers in arms in the Levant and North Africa would soon join the fight against the Nazis. The Poles were expecting to be reinforced with those freed by the Soviets, having been captured when Stalin had knifed Poland in back, while in cahoots with Hitler.

Then there was all the other odds and sods that Jumbo Wilson and Edward Quinan had between them in Palestine, Iraq and Iran. 7 Australian Division and 10th Armoured Division were there, as were 2nd Indian Armoured Brigade Group, 8th Indian Division and the first elements of 17th Indian Division had begun arriving.

2nd and 7th Armoured Divisions had been taking advantage of the excellent Italian workshops in Tripoli to overhaul and fix up their tanks. The battlefields had been scoured for any disabled or destroyed British tank that could be either fixed up or stripped for parts. Convoys along the North African coast, under the cover of land based RAF and SAAF Tomahawks had brought much of the Delta’s stock of spares and tools for the Valiant tanks. Just about every tank had needed a complete overhaul and there were some shortages of some components. The two Divisions were going about their business conscious that the war wasn’t over.

Tons of captured Italian weapons and ammunition was being shipped back to Egypt on these convoys where the Greek forces were making use of them. The Italian weapons wouldn’t be their first choice, but there were plenty of them, and large stores of ammunition. There was certainly some irony is turning the Italian guns on their previous owners, and morale among the Greek troops was rising as they were better equipped and trained.

Field Marshall Smuts and his two Major-Generals had lunch together to talk about the next steps on their journey. George Brink was very strongly of the opinion that at least one of the Infantry Divisions should be retrained as an Armoured Division. It had been quite clear from the fighting in North Africa that tanks were where the future of ground combat lay. Isaac de Villiers agreed, but only to a point. In his opinion he didn’t think that a whole Division would have to be retrained. There was something to be said for having a mixed Division, where two Brigades of Infantry would have one Brigade of tanks would make a more flexible and viable force than one Armoured and one Infantry Division.

Smuts could see the value of having an Independent Tank Brigade assigned to an Infantry Division, keeping the overall strength of the Infantry, but with close support available at hand. Both Brink and de Villiers had noted that the somewhat artificial difference between Infantry and Cruiser tanks had been overcome in the Valiant tank. From all that could be learned about the new Victor tank that was expected soon, there wouldn’t need to be a distinction made. Maintaining the two Divisions as Infantry Divisions was certainly causing problems in terms of manpower. An infantry Division needed over 17000 men, while an Armoured Division was more like 12000 men.

The question was moot anyway, there was a long list of people who wanted tanks, and until the American production ramped up the way it was planned, starting a South African Armoured Division would take a great deal of effort and frustration. Having two Infantry Divisions fully equipped and ready for action was, at least for General Wavell, a bird in the hand. Retraining as an Armoured Division would take at least a year. What Smuts, Brinks and de Villiers did agree on was the matter was worth further discussion, including how the volunteers in the Divisions would feel about leaving Africa altogether to take part in the liberation of Europe.
Last edited:
* I've swapped these around. 45th IIB will be going to Persia with the rest of 17th Indian Division, to replace 10th Indian Division which was moved to Burma ITTL.
Which as has been stated before is a major plus from the point of view of the Commonwealth forces in Malaya. OTL, the 45th IIB - undertrained, underequipped and totally unready for combat - was cut to pieces by the Japanese at Muat. Garrison duty in Persia is about the limit of what it's capable of in early 1942.
Even without losing most of an Infantry Division with the Fall of Tobruk I can't see South Africa sustaining two Divisions for the entire war and they definitely aren't going to be able to sustain 2 Infantry Divisions and an Armoured Brigade. But South Africa is (relatively) rich so maybe they could take on responsibility for and pay for the equipment of a Brigade of Poles, Greeks or some other type of Free (insert European country under Nazi occupation) Force.
Even without losing most of an Infantry Division with the Fall of Tobruk I can't see South Africa sustaining two Divisions for the entire war and they definitely aren't going to be able to sustain 2 Infantry Divisions and an Armoured Brigade. But South Africa is (relatively) rich so maybe they could take on responsibility for and pay for the equipment of a Brigade of Poles, Greeks or some other type of Free (insert European country under Nazi occupation) Force.
Probably ASB but any chance of a South African equivalent of the or indeed several regiments?
Even without losing most of an Infantry Division with the Fall of Tobruk I can't see South Africa sustaining two Divisions for the entire war
IIRC, IOTL the South Africans had difficulty in manning two Divisions for service ON THE AFRICAN CONTINENT. That was the extent of the volunteers enlistments.
Later, of course, they recalled the 1st SA Inf Div , ( 2nd had been lost at Tobruk) and disbanded it. Then raised a new 6th SA Amd Div to fight offshore, in IOTL in Italy. So, if there are not too many butterflies ITTL, the SA divisions would be recalled to South Africa, thanked for their service and the troops with their restricted terms of service now not needed, disbanded. Then a new enlistment procedure, with the agreement to serve outside the African Continent, would see the OTL 6th SA Amd Div raised.
Even without losing most of an Infantry Division with the Fall of Tobruk I can't see South Africa sustaining two Divisions for the entire war and they definitely aren't going to be able to sustain 2 Infantry Divisions and an Armoured Brigade.
Not if they keep their deployed forces all white and sending even coloured let alone black troops would be unacceptable at home.