Sketch by Jack Chalker

No One Will Believe You

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 2/3rd Motor Ambulance Column

 Malaya, 1941

In 1941 prior to the invasion of Malaya, the following Australian medical units were in Malaya and Singapore.

They included:-

  • 2/4th Casualty Clearing Station (CCS)
  • Dental Units, 2/9
  • 2/10th Field Ambulance
  • 2/10 and 2/13th Australian General Hospital and smaller Hygiene and Bacteriological units.

 There were 2 Motor Ambulance Convoys (regarded at the times as Service Corps and not Medical Corps).

Clearing Station

There were A, B and C sections of the 2/3rd Motor Ambulance Convoy (MAC) that were sent to Malaya from March to June 1941. However, their role was not to support the Australian troops initially.

In a convoluted arrangement, the unit was to serve with the 3rd Indian Corps, be rationed and equipped by British Malaya Command, but be attached to the Australian 8th Division for discipline and administration. To add further confusion, British divisions in Malaya were contending with losing experienced soldiers to other fronts, and bickering between senior officers.

Also added to this situation was the use of aircraft that were hopelessly inappropriate for any contemporary battle front and were to prove suicidal against the Japanese air force.

The MAC was comprised of three wings, The Medical wing, (C section, which Alf was in), which consisted of 2 officers and 29 other ranks and the transport wings, (A and B sections) which had 6 officers and 250 other ranks. The principal officers for the ‘C’ (medical) section were C.O Major Robert Dick (Medical Officer), and Captain Des Brennan (Medical Officer).

Alf 4th from the right

Alf is 2nd from right

Alf last on the right, back row

Alf is back row, far right

Light Trucks

‘A’ section was a light truck unit deployed initially at Grik in northern Malaya, and was arguably involved in the battle for the ‘Ledge’. ‘B’ and ‘C’ sections may have been initially based at Malacca and Seremban, and were equipped with both heavy and light truck sections.


On the 8th of December 1941, the Japanese Army staged sea landings at Kota Bharu, near the Southern border of Thailand and Malaya, and Singora, and Pitina in the north east of Malaya.

Japanese landing at Songkhla (Aka Singora)

Japanese Landing at Songkhla (Aka Singora)

From December 8, 1941, the 2/3rd MAC entered active service with the 9th and 11th Indian divisions in defence of the area north of Jahore and Malacca. His unit was based at Ipoh at the outbreak of hostilities and was then moved to Ayer Hitam, Eastern Malaya. Evidence suggests he was likely attached to the 5th Indian Casualty Clearing Station (CCS), 3rd Indian Corps, at Ipoh in early December of 1941, and would have participated in retrieving battle casualties from frontline regimental aid posts which involved supporting actions anywhere from Singora to operation ‘Krochol’ in Thailand, at the ‘ledge’; a critical mountainous bridge that held the key to flanking the western part of Malaya for the Japanese.

Elements of the 2/3rd MAC may also have been attached to the 2/3rd Australian Motor Transport Company; which was comprised of WW1 veterans and were 30 to 40 km inside Thailand, and supported the Punjabis near the infamous ‘Ledge’ battle. Operation ‘Krohcol’, or the ‘Battle for The Ledge’ was a British operation in December 1941 to move into southern Thailand following the invasion of Malaya and Thailand to attempt to stop the Japanese outflanking the Indian units of the 11th division. This action was authorised by Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival as a ‘mini Matador’ after Operation Matador, a previously conceived pre-war pre-emptive strike into Thailand that had not been carried out due to confusion around intelligence on the 8th of December as to whether the Japanese were actually in fact invading. The resulting delays proved catastrophic for the allied forces at, and after the Ledge battle. Thus, three ad hoc combat columns were put together to harass and delay the Japanese advance from their beachheads at Singora and Pattani; and were tasked with the destruction of the ‘Ledge’ which was a section of road running along a mountain side in north Malaya. Destruction of the Ledge would have effectively blocked the road from Pattani thereby ensuring the security of 11th Indian Infantry Division's line of communication and retreat. This action however was too late, being delayed by errors and Thai resistance, and ultimately failed.

Through a forced march, the Japanese had forestalled the column in its objective, and were seeking to get behind the 11th Indian Division by thrusting along the road through Kroh. As mentioned, Alf may have helped two ad hoc sections that made up the 2/3rd Australian Reserve Motor Transport Company in retrieving Indian casualties from the ledge and taking them to Tampin and/or Butterworth, where the 5th Indian CCS had repositioned itself on the western Malayan coastline. The 3/16th Punjabi’s had advanced to within about five miles of The Ledge when the leading company, advancing on foot, came under fire. Japanese tanks then appeared, followed by truck-loads of troops, and then more tanks.


One of the Punjab companies ended up being trapped, and another temporarily cut off; but despite the advantage which the tanks gave the enemy, the Indians fought on. The 5/14th Punjab, less a company, was joined by the 10th Mountain Battery at Kroh and took up a supporting position north of Betong. Whatever Alf’s involvement, the 2/3 MAC transported all wounded in front of and behind the Malayan Field Ambulances to the 5th Indian CCS near Tampin/Butterworth on the western coastline from the 8th to the 11th of December, and was closely associated with the 36th Indian Field Ambulance (IFA) and it is likely that Alf’s ‘C’ section was associated with all subsequent actions of the 36th IFA in Malaya from then on. The Japanese capture of the Ledge allowed them access to the rear areas of the 11th Indian Division, and forced the British to retreat from Perak and Kedah in the west of Malaya.  The threat to the west of this area of Malaya had quickly developed after these events. Thai opposition to operation ‘Krohcol’ ceased suddenly on the afternoon of 9th December, and the MAC column (mostly ‘A’ section) spent the night at Betong in the central north of Malaya.

The 9th and 11th Indian divisions, with the Malays, joined British units and staged a fighting withdrawal that included the following major battles that elements of the 2/3rd MAC are likely to have supported; as almost all transport of wounded from the field, from CCS, and to hospitals in the south were subsequently carried out by the MAC from then on.





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[No One Will Believe] [Introduction] [Alfs Enlistment Record] [Overview 2/3rd MAC] [With The Indians] [2/3rd MAC under AIF] [2/3rd MAC in Singapore] [The Aftermath] [Alf in 'K' Force] [Toward The End] [Alfs Demob Record] [Alf's Photo Album] [Thai-Burma Trip 2019] [References]


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