Australians ambush the Japanese
15th January 1942: Australian infantry in Malaya inflict heavy casualties but face aircraft attacks and tanks
After the shock Japanese breakthrough at the battle of the Slim river, they were pushing south down the Malaya peninsula towards Singapore. It was decided to attempt to ambush them at the next significant river crossing. This was the moment for the Australians to make their distinctive contribution to the campaign.
What followed was the Sungei Gemenchei Ambush on the 14th January1. Here the bridge was prepared for demolition and men from 'B' Company of the 2/30 battalion Australian Imperial Force (AIF) lay hidden in the jungle while they awaited the Japanese to arrive.
A significant number of Japanese troops on bicycles were allowed to cross, until the point was reached when a large body of troops were on the bridge. They were then blown up along with the bridge, and the cyclists who had already crossed were attacked. Members of B Company estimated that around 600 Japanese were killed.
The action continued the following day when the other companies of the 2/30 Battalion found themselves confronting the Japanese at close quarters when they established a road block at Gemas, as Sergeant Stanley Arniel of A Company recalled:
On the morning of 15th January 1942, we were lying on the ground waiting for the Japanese to attack. I do not recall any semblance of fear of the immediate future in any person - that came a few days later, when we realised just what war meant.
‘We were marvelling at the rain of latex, which was dropping from the trees like milk as the Japanese machine gun bullets chattered through the rubber.’
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